Mercenaries are entirely battle focused, and thematically they are defending their little utopia from invaders, so this would help with both of those things while tying into their stateless rebels lore.
That’s one thing that I’ve wondered about with the Mercs. It seems like they’d go to the highest bidder and not really care about their territory or existing utopia/etc. It’s interesting to think about what they could have been thematically closer to. I’ve played around with their ideals and alliances a LOT in my custom fantasy set, with various “types” of mercenaries.
I also think that Ex-patriot should be worth 0 points, not 1.
Combine that with better-costed abilities and they’d be considered much more often. However, I see the premium as two important things – they need payment for their services, and they can serve on ships of any nationality. That second part is a much bigger deal than the positive of the Mercenary keyword. SS Tsai essentially gave all the factions a sac captain, which automatically makes the minor factions more competitive.
That’s one of the things to consider with the Ex-Patriot crew that have existing ability combos – Celemente may not be worthy of Pirate employ, but a ship like the JR Sea Phoenix could make reasonable use out of him.